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Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, Scientist, San Francisco

Miriam Rotkin-Ellman

I'm a scientist with training in environmental sciences and public health. I spent the first part of my education and career studying how people impact the environment and then came full circle to understand how our environment impacts us. Before coming to the Bay Area for graduate school, I worked for the New Mexico Environment Department protecting drinking water resources from industrial, domestic, and agricultural pollution. This work took me to small towns and communities from the US/Mexico border to the edge of the Navajo Nation – a far cry from the urban streets of Brooklyn where I grew up. Since then, I have worked in many more communities struggling with environmental burdens, from the lower 9th ward in New Orleans to families living next door to major industrial facilities. As a scientist, one of my jobs is to help document what the folks living in these communities already know: that the air they breathe, the water they drink and the safety of places they live and work are crucial to their health. The other is to help ensure that this information is turned into action that protects communities. What I like most about my job is researching questions that matter to people. Whether it’s the health impacts from global warming, cleaning up industrial pollution from refineries and cement plants, or the safety of products to use in the home, there are people’s lives that depend on us getting it right.

Recent Posts

Burden of the Boom: Who Will Pay the Price for Fracking in California?

Posted October 22, 2014 by Miriam Rotkin-Ellman in Environmental Justice, Health and the Environment

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From polluted skies to contaminated drinking water and hazardous waste, communities of color in California get way more than their fair share.  If the oil and gas industry gets their way, drilling – and the environmental and health threats from...continued

Reading, Writing, and ...Toxic Pesticides?

Posted August 27, 2014 by Miriam Rotkin-Ellman in Environmental Justice, Health and the Environment

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Parents worry about plenty of things when they send their kids to school: first- day jitters, making friends, bullying … But exposure to toxic chemicals isn’t usually on the list of “back to school” worries. Perhaps it should be, though....continued

Mounting Evidence that EPA Must Curb Toxic Air Pollution from Fracking Sites

Posted May 13, 2014 by Miriam Rotkin-Ellman in Health and the Environment

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Hydraulic fracturing (fracking), and other extraction technologies, can increase harmful air pollution. Also, by opening up new areas to oil and gas drilling, expansion of this industry is bringing harmful contaminants to backyards, communities, and cities.  These contaminants, which include...continued

EPA on Flea Collars - Right Action, Wrong Timing

Posted March 14, 2014 by Miriam Rotkin-Ellman in Health and the Environment

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After more than six years of trying to get unsafe flea collars off the store shelves, I wish I was celebrating today.  The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) announcement of an agreement with flea collar manufacturers to phase out their products...continued

No More Poisonous Pets: EPA's Delay on Flea Collars Threatens Our Kids

Posted February 6, 2014 by Miriam Rotkin-Ellman in Health and the Environment

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Have you ever watched a kid around a dog or cat? It is often a love and cuddle fest. They press their small faces into the pet’s fur; their arms encircle the pet in long hugs; their hands stroke, grab...continued

New Study Finds Worrisome Pattern of Birth Defects in Fracking Communities

Posted February 4, 2014 by Miriam Rotkin-Ellman in Health and the Environment

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Science has long known that the developing fetus is sensitive to experiences of the mother – alcohol consumption, dietary factors, and mercury exposure are some of the more well-known examples.  This sensitivity makes newborn babies an early indicator of something...continued

Still Fuming: New EPA Natural Gas Rules Leave Communities at Risk

Posted April 18, 2012 by Miriam Rotkin-Ellman in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued two urgently needed standards that will limit dangerous air pollution from natural gas wells including those that are hydraulically fractured (“fracked”).  These rules are an improvement over the status quo but fall short of...continued

BP Oil Disaster Two Years Later: Check-up on Health

Posted April 18, 2012 by Miriam Rotkin-Ellman in Health and the Environment

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It’s been two years since the BP oil disaster brought horrific scenes of oil slicks, dead wildlife, contaminated beaches, and devastated fishing communities into our living rooms.  But, for many people on the Gulf Coast, the nightmare continued long after...continued

Fracking Fumes: Natural Gas Development Worsens Air Quality

Posted April 11, 2012 by Miriam Rotkin-Ellman in Health and the Environment

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Smoggy skies, air quality alerts, burning eyes, headaches, respiratory problems, elevated cancer risk…  Sounds just like Los Angeles or another urban center, right? Not this time.  These air quality problems are being reported in rural America.  What’s going on? An...continued

FDA's Bad Science: Agency Allows Unsafe Levels of Contaminants in Seafood

Posted October 12, 2011 by Miriam Rotkin-Ellman in Health and the Environment

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Is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) looking out for your health? Not nearly enough, according to our new study published today in the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives. That’s especially true for young children and pregnant women, as well...continued

EPA Needs to Hear from You: Get Toxic Pet Products off the Shelves

Posted July 7, 2011 by Miriam Rotkin-Ellman in Health and the Environment

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Calling all concerned pet owners and families.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is in charge of ensuring the safety of flea control products, is asking for public input on whether to continue to allow the neurotoxic and cancer-causing pesticide...continued

More Gulf Seafood Testing Needed: A New Study Critically Reviews Seafood Safety Policies and Protocols Following the BP Oil Spill

Posted May 18, 2011 by Miriam Rotkin-Ellman in Health and the Environment

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According to a new study, additional and improved testing of Gulf seafood is needed to track contamination and ensure public health protections following the BP Oil Spill disaster.  This study provides solid evidence to support community concerns that the testing...continued

BP Disaster at One Year: Calling for Improved Seafood Safety Testing and Assessment

Posted April 18, 2011 by Miriam Rotkin-Ellman in Health and the Environment

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The BP oil spill disaster spewed 4.9 million barrels of oil into one of the most productive fisheries in the United States.  Contaminants in oil, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which can cause cancer, and toxic heavy metals, can accumulate in the...continued

BP Oil Disaster at One Year: Assessing Public Health Threats

Posted April 13, 2011 by Miriam Rotkin-Ellman in Health and the Environment

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When the BP Deepwater Horizon drilling platform exploded on April 20, 2010 it set off a chain of events that wreaked ecological and economic destruction up and down the Gulf Coast.  For the communities whose lives are inextricably linked to...continued

New Study Sheds Light on Air Quality Impacts of the BP Oil Spill

Posted March 16, 2011 by Miriam Rotkin-Ellman in Health and the Environment

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According to a new study, the chemicals that spewed into the Gulf of Mexico from the BP Oil Spill set off a complex chain of chemical reactions forming air pollution aerosols. Unfortunately these aerosols weren’t adequately monitored for at the...continued

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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